There was a time when afterschool care was just homework help, apple-juice boxes, and peanut butter sandwiches — not the most appealing situation for today’s youth.
Introducing Dallas Afterschool, where there’s more to programming than just snacks. The staff is in the business of improving the quality of afterschool and summer programs. Since 2007, Dallas Afterschool has collaborated with nonprofit afterschool sites in low-income neighborhoods to suit the needs of the youth in that area.
“There’s something to be said for having kids safe between the hours of three and six,” said Christina Hanger, CEO at Dallas Afterschool.
Today, Dallas Afterschool serves 120 nonprofit afterschool sites, including Trinity River Mission and Family Place shelter, serving nearly 9,000 students.
The organization doesn’t work with students directly. In essence, they serve as a one-stop shop for other programs, providing staff training, free engaging curriculum, funding for field trips, and professional development.
Each partner site is evaluated on 10 elements of quality. There’s a follow-up assessment at the end of the year.
Hanger noted that eighty percent of a child’s time awake is spent away from the classroom, and schools are already given so much to cover that social and emotional enhancement is not always addressed.
“Kids in Dallas face a lot of challenges, and so many of our kids are growing up in poverty,” Hanger said.
BEING NOTICED: Dallas Afterschool has twice been nominated for the Center for Nonprofit Managment’s “Nonprofit of the Year” award.
FIND THEM AT: dallasafterschool.org
Statistics show that children born into poverty experience a 6,000-hour learning gap by sixth grade in comparison to their middle-class classmates. One way that Dallas Afterschool works to bridge this gap is by providing creative activity boxes for afterschool programs. Each one is a 45-minute lesson that teaches skills that align with the Texas Education Knowledge Standards.
Hank Lawson, community engagement advisor at Frazier Revitalization, Inc., saw this as an opportunity to upgrade programs at all of their afterschool sites.
“We can now count on having quality hands-on activities at all of our sites,” said Lawson after a training session with the Dallas Afterschool staff. “This in turn means that we should hold on to many of the kids, expecting them to participate every day the program is offered.”
Dallas Afterschool has partnered with SMU to learn what elements truly have an impact on education and social and emotional development. They’re taking a systemic and collaborative approach to this through their Out of School Time Initiative, to be implemented in August.
“If we work intentionally in four neighborhoods and we add additional resources to work between parents and providers and schools, then we can determine what kind of programming parents want in their neighborhood, what kind of interventions are needed, and what the schools want afterschool providers to be focusing on,” Hanger said.
The OST initiative will zone in on neighborhoods in the West Dallas, Fair Park, South Oak Cliff, and Bachman Lake areas. Right now about 3 percent of the children in those neighborhoods are in programs that Dallas Afterschool supports. Hanger hopes to increase that number to 7 percent.
The goal for OST is to deliver equitable access to quality programs and use the collected data to provide programs that meet the needs of students. Ultimately, Hanger would like to use the outcome of the initiative to push for public funding of afterschool programs.
“If we can work in these neighborhoods and show what a positive impact it has, maybe we can get there,” Hanger said.
In the meantime, Dallas Afterschool is taking on more sites and partners and spreading its mission.